Oklahoma High School Teacher Charged with Rape

Another former high school coach in Oklahoma has been charged with second degree rape after accusations of sex with a student.

Thomas Allen Fenderson, 43, resigned from his position as Commerce High School science teacher, assistant football coach, boys' basketball coach, and middle school track coach in May. He is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student on campus, at a motel, and at his home.

Reports say the girl and Fenderson began exchanging Snapchat messages in January, and that the two began having sex in March. Police say the former teacher and coach confessed to the sexual relationship with the student.

Facing Second Degree Rape Charges

Fenderson is charged in Ottawa County District Court with three counts of second degree rape. He was booked into the Ottawa County Jail and released on $75,000 bond--$25,000 for each count. As a condition of his release, he is to have no contact with the girl involved in the case.

Second degree rape is commonly known as statutory rape. Many people think of statutory rape as sex with a willing partner who is too young to legally consent to sexual activity. In Oklahoma, the age of consent is 16, and although the accuser in this case is aged 17, Oklahoma statutory rape law prohibits sex between any student under the age of 20 and any school employee aged 18 or older who works for the same school system the student attends.

Understanding Oklahoma's Laws

Had Fenderson not been a teacher, coach, or other employee of Commerce Public Schools, his relationship with the 17-year-old would not have been illegal, even if sex between a 43-year-old and a 17-year-old is not typically considered appropriate. Because of the state's prohibition between sex between students and school employees, an otherwise legal act becomes a Level 3 Sex Offense that carries up to 15 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration.

Another recent case of sex between a coach and student concluded with the man's conviction and 10-year sentence. Tyrone Nash was convicted of second degree rape for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old Western Heights High School student, even though the girl was of legal age to consent and even though Nash was neither the girl's teacher nor her coach. Although his attorney challenged the constitutionality of a law that prohibits sex between consenting adults when neither is in a position of authority over the other, Nash was convicted of five counts of second degree rape and five counts of forcible sodomy. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with the last 8 years suspended.

In that case, Nash refused to accept a plea deal that would have kept him out of prison because he would still have been required to register as a sex offender. His attorney plans to appeal and to continue the challenge the constitutionality of Oklahoma's statutory rape laws. For more information on statutory rape and age of consent in Oklahoma visit /practice-areas/ageofconsent

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